Silver Dan A4 #1598

jtd871

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Jun 22, 2015
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I am finally building my first custom desktop system. My previous two personal computers have been laptops with discrete graphics. The first was a 14- or 15-inch (Core 2 Duo?) Lenovo Thinkpad with NVS gpu, the second (and current) is a 17-inch FHD IVB i7 QM built by iBuyPower using a MSI chassis with a GT675M gpu.

The first had the discrete graphics go bad (no signal to the screen, but aux video output still seemed to work, otherwise it would still power up). The second recently has shown signs of graphics instability (reboots, crashes) which I am hopeful that I can remedy by a good cleaning of the heatsink and/or restoring a known good disk image.

In both cases, I spent a significant amount of money (~$1750 each) for systems which were portable but had limited upgradeable parts - memory and mass storage. Should a critical component fail, I would be the proud owner of an expensive doorstop.

So when I was looking around for ideas for my desktop, I stumbled upon the DAN A4 project. After what seemed an eternity, I gritted my teeth (on the "sticker shock") and spent the better part of $300 to back the A4. After another eternity, I finally received my silver A4 case yesterday.

As others have already commented, it's unbelievably lightweight.

I am considering having some custom vinyl cut to decorate the front panel of the case, but haven't really decided what to do. I'll update if/when it happens.

Obligatory parts list:
Dan A4-SFX case, silver
MSI H270i Gaming Pro motherboard
Intel i5-7500 cpu
Crorig C7 cooler
EVGA GTX 1060 SSC 6GB gpu
G.Skill NT-series DDR4 ram, 2x8GB, 2400MHz
Corsair SF450 psu

Other parts bought for this build:
Dell U2415 monitor
Dell AC511 soundbar
Anker 4-port Aluminum USB 3.0 Hub


Rationale for parts selection:
The Dan A4 (silver) was selected because it was, at the time, the smallest case to be had. I chose silver because I thought that the black version would show dust and fingerprints too easily.

The Intel i5-7500 was selected due to it being the latest revision of the Intel core CPU, and arguably the best value of the Kaby Lake CPUs. If Ryzen-compatible mITX motherboards had been available when the case arrived and Ryzen 5 CPUs had been released, I might have gone that way. Maybe not.

I went with the H270i for a couple of reasons: I like the idea of the debug LEDs on the board, the placement of some of the components also seems better than some of the other options on the market at this time, and although I was willing to consider a Z270 board for additional bling and features, I didn't see a compelling reason to do so.

A couple of asides:

Hey, motherboard manufacturers: would it kill your marketing people to list what comes in the box?!

Hey, @ASRock System, please tell your design people that sticking with older audio codecs was a significant reason I didn't go AsRock this time. As much as I admire the ideas behind your products, how you execute your vision matters, and it's not all always about the cost.

I went with the Cryorig cooler as it doesn't seem to have the potential conflicts that the Silverstone AR-05 might have with the heatpipes on that particular cooler. I will update if i find an incompatibility with this board.

I went with this GPU because of the multiple mDP ports for going multi-monitor in the future. I would prefer no DVI. I also wanted dual fans on the theory that the fans might be able to spin quieter than a single-fan model. I also think that the orientation of the fins on the heatsink will be advantageous in this case. I went 1060 because I wanted all the eye candy at FHD.

I selected the G.Skill RAM as it is made with SK Hynix chips, which have shown a resistance to rowhammer problems, and because there is no heatspreader to cause fitment issues. Plus I think heatspreaders on memory are kind of silly. (I reserve the right to change my mind.) Finally, since the system supports 2400 MHz memory, it would be silly not to use it as there is no significant price premium over 2133MHz DR4.

I am a bit on the fence with the PSU. The fan is semi-passive, which could be a problem in this case, as the PSU cannot be relied on to assist with ventilating the case. I will report back if there is an issue with this.

The monitor is rated the best monitor value by www.wirecutter.com. I found their argument compelling.

The soundbar is so I can have a monitor-mounted speaker. I'm not an audiophile, so it's good enough.

The USB hub is for connecting (among other items) my wired gamepads, and I'm planning on attaching it with velcro strips perhaps to one side of my case.

I will be posting photos of the assembly process.

Edited to correct typos. Corrected "Haswell" to "IVB".
 
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bledha

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Feb 22, 2017
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Dell U2415 monitor

Say what you will about Dell - I love that monitor. Had it for years. 16:10 (for programming/reading that extra height is great), 1200p - slightly better than 1080p without needing the horses that 1400p needs to drive. It is the perfect compromise monitor, colors are great (I did a lot of photo editing on it) and it games really well, too.

I support that choice! Looking forward to the build.
 

jtd871

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Original poster
Jun 22, 2015
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I have 2 at work, so it's a known quantity to me. Thanks for the positive feedback.
 

jtd871

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Jun 22, 2015
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It lives!


I've got everything but the GPU installed at this point and W10Pro went on the SSD last night. I will be posting pics later today (as edits to this post), but I will put down a few notes regarding this, my first build:

First off, mounting the CPU cooler was a bit tricky in that there appears to be no obvious orientation for the cooler itself. It seems by visual inspection that no matter which way I oriented it, there were components on the motherboard that would be uncomfortably close to the bottom of the sink. Currently, based on the images in the included documentation, I have it oriented such that the heatpipe cutouts are aligned with the axis of symmetry of the CPU socket cover (i.e., the fins are aligned perpendicular to the DIMM sockets). I used the included backplate - but if you were going to use the M.2 slot, there might be a conflict. Currently, the backplate smooshes (technical term) the PCIe riser against the motherboard tray. Unless the CPU temps are bad (~30C at idle currently) or the GPU doesn't work, I'm going to leave it that way for the moment. OTOH, I'm not sure I want that stress on the motherboard...

Other observations from the CPU cooler installation: The Cryorig documentation has a few interesting omissions - 1) there is no graphic or text informing you how to open the syringe of thermal grease (yes, I was probably overthinking that one), and 2) at no time in the printed and online documentation do they tell you to remove the sticker from the cold plate.

The power button for this case is attached to the inner frame and looks like a basic tactile switch, and the leads that connect to the motherboard seem flimsily attached to it given how much cable-gami you'll need to do in this area of the case. The button face on the front panel is just an extender with a spring attached with a bracket to the front panel. It seems unlikely that installing an anti-vandal switch will be a simple operation, as (at least) the frame will require modding.


To connect the USB3 on the front to the motherboard, I ended up disconnecting the USB cable and bracketry from the frame and then reinstalled it *after* I had my 24-pin cable attached. It's still too stiff for my liking and will be squished by the sidepanel above the connection to the motherboard. I think that @dondan should consider getting rid of the front panel USB altogether for the next version of this case, unless the cable can be made significantly more flexible or have some sort of an angled connection near the motherboard header.

I decided to put the SATA SSD behind the front panel, and I'm happy that I did: removing the dual drive caddy from the floor of the case means that there is A LOT more room to wangle the PSU cables than with it installed. The stock SF450 ATX24 cable(s) could be shortened a bit given the placement of the socket on the motherboard. Likewise the CPU power cable, although this one has only 7-8 wires, so it's MUCH more flexible than the 24-pin. I ended up figuring out how to route the 24-pin cable, plugging the terminals into the PSU and then mounting the PSU.

The power cord extension is currently routed up the outside of the front panel in the channel on the left-hand side, then going above the HDD mount and thence to the PSU. The PSU is mounted with the fan facing outward which makes getting the power extension cord twisted the right way around a bit tricky.

The SF450 SATA power cable has 4 connectors, which is too many for this case, as I can't see how I would connect that many devices. I'm considering getting a custom SATA power cable from Cable Mod just to cut down on the cable clutter and be able to stuff it inside the case.

I'll be leaving the case at least partially open for the next few days as I have an old HDD from a device that died that I'd like to try to recover information off of.
 
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jtd871

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Jun 22, 2015
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GPU went in yesterday. It was a bit of a tricky fit for a moment sliding the card into place - one of the port covers on the card was preventing the card lining up with the PCIe. After removing the offending port cover, it slid into place just fine. There's a fair bit of room both at the end of the card and below the card, so my worries about stuffing cables into only the area below the PSU were well overblown. That being said, I'm still happy the drive caddy was removed, as that offers a lot more wiggle room with the Corsair cables.


Once in, it required a bit of English to get the retention screws to align with the slot plate on the back of the chassis.

A few more notes on the A4 case:

I found the slots on the screws used to retain the outer panels to be relatively shallow, and I thought that I would strip them with my magnetic screwdriver. I ended up using a small "jeweler"-type screwdriver to remove and re-install these screws. Initially removing them was tough - they seemed to have been a bit over-tight than maybe necessary.

It may well be possible to install an anti-vandal type switch with this case, but you'd need to enlarge the hole on the front panel and through the frame.
 

jtd871

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Jun 22, 2015
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I haven't noticed a whine. Not saying it isn't there, just that I haven't noticed one.
 

jtd871

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Jun 22, 2015
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OK, I've noticed it. But I only notice it when I'm using headphones.

I also have noticed a bit of whine from the 1060 on static load screens.
 

ondert

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Apr 16, 2017
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hey, i got a dell p2715q and planning to add an ac511 soundbar to it. does it make whizzles?
 

jtd871

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Original poster
Jun 22, 2015
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I only notice the high-pitched sound with headphones on and no audio playing. I don't notice it with audio playing. I keep the volume fairly low at home as I use over-ear phones, so no idea if "whizzles" are present at higher volumes.
I will unplug the speaker and test the stereo output from the motherboard rear I/O this week to see whether it's a motherboard issue or the speaker.
 
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